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Magic, caught live

Music for Ranch & Town
Music for Ranch & Town
By the Hacienda Brothers

Self-released: 2007

Buy it now


This review first appeared in the October 11, 2007 issue of the North County Times.

A live set recorded in Oslo during a recent European tour, the Hacienda Brothers' new (third) CD pulls songs from their first two studio outings, throws in a couple of covers, and finds the band relaxed and having fun in front of an appreciative audience.

Even more in this live setting than on their two studio sets, the Hacienda Brothers blend the seemingly disparate strains of classic country and '60s East Coast soul into a seamless, uniquely American music. Their version of "Cowboys to Girls" is just as spine-tingling as the studio version on last year's "What's Wrong With Right," and shows how much common ground is shared between black urban and white rural American traditions.

A large part of that success in blending the two styles is the stellar singing of Chris Gaffney, the L.A.-based Latin rocker who handles most of the lead vocals. Equally comfortable tacklilng Philly soul and deep Texas honky tonk, Gaffney's voice has a few more rough edges here than on the studio outings, but that roughness only adds more charm to his vulnerability.

The songs tend to be a bit longer here – "Cowboys to Girls" comes in at just over 8 minutes (and includes a segue/medley with "Just My Imagination), while Ivory Joe Hunter's "Since I Met You Baby" runs over 12. The longer songs lead to longer, more involved instrumental solos from the band members – Escondido's Dave Gonzalez turns in a surprisingly R&B-flavored electric guitar solo on "Cowboys to Girls," and on "Since I Met You Baby" breaks out his blues chops that fans from his days in the Paladins will cherish. Pedal steel guitarist David Berzansky is solid throughout, Gaffney breaks out his squeezebox and the rhythm section of Hank Maninger on bass and Dale Daniel on drums finds a groove somewhere between Motown and cowtown.

With a remarkably clean mix for a live recording, and an inspired hour-plus of music, this is a can't-miss release.